Report: GOP strategists are getting ready to ditch Trump for the down ticket

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Donald Trump Finally Endorses Paul Ryan, John McCain in Bid for Party Unity

On Friday night, Donald Trump finally got around to endorsing Congressman Paul Ryan and Senators John McCain and Kelly Ayotte in their respective races against primary opponents, after having hedged on offering that support earlier in the week following the uproar over the Republican nominee's recent attacks on the parents of a slain war hero. Trump's hesitance to support the trio had set off yet another maelstrom for his struggling campaign and led to fresh round of criticism from within the GOP establishment. But Trump's newest attempt at renewed GOP unity on Friday is unlikely to calm vulnerable Republican incumbents up for reelection this year. Indeed, the New York Times is reporting that top GOP strategists, growing increasingly resigned to the likelihood of Trump being an election-day disaster for the party, are now actively working on plans to distance down-ticket incumbents from the nominee.

Those plans exclude fully disavowing Trump (and potentially alienating his base), but include other coping mechanisms like accelerating the development of ads that distinguish GOP candidates from Trump — airing as soon as early next month — or possibly launching a large-scale ad campaign to support conventional Republican positions, thus bolstering the party itself instead of the party's nominee — or as the Times paraphrases one strategist's explanation, "to provide voters with a different, nonthreatening view of Republicans, so that the party is not wholly defined by Mr. Trump's day-to-day pronouncements."

SEE ALSO: Trump's plunge in polls has Republicans starting to panic

In addition the Club for Growth, a major conservative political group, is itself researching contingency plans to motivate voters who don't like Trump but might vote for down ticket candidates. And while the GOP's hold on the Senate is most at risk this year, Paul Ryan, who is himself facing an ugly — if not terribly risky — primary battle at home in Wisconsin, has warned Republican donors that the party's 30-seat majority in the House isn't safe either.

Speaking of the House, though he is retiring at the end of this year, another Republican representative, Virginia's Scott Rigell, said on Friday that he wouldn't be voting for Trump this fall, opting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson instead. Earlier this week, New York representative Richard Hanna, also retiring this year, said that he would be voting for Clinton. In addition to those announcements, two Republicans in tight reelection races, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Iowa Representative David Young, both avoided Trump's events in their respective states on Friday.

In the meantime, while the Trump campaign continues to flail about in its attempt to operate as an actual campaign, the Clinton campaign is conducting business as usual. Bloomberg Politics reports that the campaign has placed at least $5.5 million in ad-time reservations on NBC's during its broadcasts of the Rio Olympics, 40 percent of which will be on the national network. That is compared with zero time reservations from the Trump campaign during any upcoming period, after already not having run any ads since May.

8 politicians who refuse to support Donald Trump:

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Politicians who refuse to support Donald Trump
ABC NEWS - 7/20/16 - Coverage of the 2016 Republican National Convention from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, which airs on all ABC News programs and platforms. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) SEN. TED CRUZ
Former Republican U.S. presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks critically about current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and the state of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign during a speech at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Former President George W. Bush campaigns for his brother Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, listens to an audience question during a town hall event hosted by CNN at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. Donald Trump remains the front-runner in South Carolina, where Republican voters head to the polls on Saturday. According to a survey released Monday by Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling, Trump holds a 17-point lead over Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who are tied for second place. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
ROCKVILLE, MD - APRIL 25: Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks during a campaign event April 25, 2016 in Rockville, Maryland. Governor Kasich continued to seek for his party's nomination for the general election. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks with reporters before a weekly policy meeting with Senate Republicans, at the U.S. Capitol, May 10, 2016, in Washington, DC. Presidential candidate Donald Trump is scheduled meet with Republican House and Senate leadership on Thursday. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
CNBC EVENTS -- The Republican Presidential Debate: Your Money, Your Vote -- Pictured: George Pataki participates in CNBC's 'Your Money, Your Vote: The Republican Presidential Debate' live from the University of Colorado Boulder in Boulder, Colorado Wednesday, October 28th at 6PM ET / 8PM ET -- (Photo by: David A. Grogan/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush smiles while wearing a pink shirt to raise breast cancer awareness on the sidelines of the Houston Texans versus New York Giants NFL football game in Houston October 10, 2010. REUTERS/Richard Carson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
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